Every time I post a blog about HD Radio, I just sit back and wait for the predictable deluge of negative comments - typically from the same people. There's no doubt that many in our industry have become understandably disenchanted with HD Radio, seeing whatever potential and promise it once had now being jettisoned to the industry's backburner.
And many have legitimate gripes and concerns. After the HD Radio ad campaign controversy from late last year, Peter Ferrara wisely put together the "HD Radio Idea Summit." I was invited, I attended, and I participated. It was a healthy vent session, followed up by a constructive brainstorm that may have yielded several solid ideas. If nothing else, many Alliance members went back home to their respective companies, and hopefully started pushing for some change, some investment, and some attention for HD Radio.
In these sessions, some of the creative folks from the Alliance's ad agency, GSD&M, were on hand to discuss the controversial "It's Your Radio" campaign, and to look for input for the next flight of spots. This is where the "Upgrade" concept was conceptualized, and most participants concurred that it's an improvement over "Discover It."
My sense of this session - which I suggested in a blog last December - was that it was a start, but something that should have occurred a year or more ago. There are great minds in this business, and if the HD Alliance is to successfully manage this difficult project, it's going to need creativity, input, and help from more than just the usual suspects.
That's why I got excited when I received a new HD Radio commercial campaign in my email last week. It didn't come from the Alliance nor was it dreamed up by a big agency or even by a committee of esteemed radio broadcasters. Instead, it came out of the production studio of Bonneville/St. Louis. Cooked up by commercial production director, Brian Hartmann, it's clearly an improvement over the original campaign because it positions HD Radio as a positive upgrade. Instead of a replacement for your old tired radio, HD Radio is presented as a complement to AM/FM. You can check out one of Brian's spots here:
How many other Brian Hartmanns are out there, eager, ready and willing to make HD Radio work? How many programmers at the local level have exciting ideas about how to program HD2 channels that might just sell some radios? At the "Idea Summit," we heard from CBS' Dave Robbins talking about his company's HD2 plans. Energized by Dan Mason's initiative to do something breakthrough with HD2 channels, the company is embarking on several new concepts - including Amp (a channel for pre-teen girls).
The "Idea Summit" was a start, but if HD Radio is to become viable, the Alliance and its members need to look no further than some of the talented people inside AM and FM stations who are teeming with ideas, innovations, and content that could lead to success. There needs to be an atmosphere of innovation, experimentation, and entrepreneurship that is so often missing from broadcast radio today.
Thanks to Brian Hartmann, who took the initiative by sending his idea to iBiquity, and getting the ball rolling. It's a start.